Ultimately, It’s About “Forever”

Other than writing blog posts, I’ve had my head buried in Distances over the last few days. I’m getting bleary eyed. If I find another stupid typo, I may lose it.

Desperately needing breaks, I’ve tried now and then also to read (catch up with, may be more accurate) some blogs. The other day, I happened on this from Kate Colby:

You are probably not the next Hemingway, either (and that is STILL okay!)

And she’s absolutely right, of course. Yet that’s also a relief. For that’s actually fine by me.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.
Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.

Why?

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Future Academics Will Find Lots Less Paper

Good morning. This might be called PART II to yesterdays’s post:

Screen capture of title of yesterday's post.
Screen capture of title of yesterday’s post.

That retired English literature professor’s disdain for “social media” embraced by “young people” led me to thinking. How much has changed in novel writing over the last few generations. One aspect of such change has zero to do with annoying kids insisting on using Twitter on holiday when, AS WE ALL KNOW, they should be sitting on Bournemouth Beach immersed in The Great Gatsby.

“The Great Gatsby” first edition cover, 1925. From Wikipedia.

I don’t write my novels longhand. True, there is nothing new in someone doing that of course. We know typing has been around for over a century.

But a typewriter is just another form of physical writing. What’s changed in the last two generations is increasingly everything is on computers. And those computers are becoming ever more sophisticated.

As you may know, I’ve been proofing the Distances manuscript using a Word file emailed to my Kindle. (The last part of that sentence would’ve totally baffled F. Scott Fitzgerald.) I’m not inking out lines and words and scribbling in planned changes above them or in the margins and handing those changes to my devoted secretary…. who is invariably a lovely, ever-helpful woman who works for close to nothing because I can barely pay her, and she can type, because, being a man, as you know I’m a pathetic typist….

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“You kids….and get off my lawn too!”

In a world full of young adult fiction readers who are also “social media” users, who could seriously argue the likes of Twitter are destroying novel reading among the young? For the two streams of entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive: reading a novel is one thing, while networking and socializing is another. Most people can walk and chew gum at the same time.

However, this retired English literature professor lumps them together:

Screen capture of the Daily Mail.
Screen capture of the Daily Mail.

His summation of novels in single tweets is amusing. However, his tweets are obviously not replacements for reading the full novels themselves. That said, I’ve also never seen the issue positioned before in that thrown back on itself manner.

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“He said THAT? And she said THAT?”

I have literally awoken at times around 3am, my mind for some reason fixating on some plot point or statement. I wonder, “Did I leave *that* out? Did she say that?” It’s a sick feeling that can ruin a night’s sleep.

So far – luckily – whenever I have had that happen, on frantic double-checking I discover everything is fine, and I breathe out. When writing a series, you need a perfect memory. You can’t miss a thing, because even a minor oversight or “misremembering” a tiny “fact” from earlier can prove pretty embarrassing later on.

[Selfie, 2015.]
[Selfie, 2015.]
I’ve been rereading Passports at length over the last few days. It’s the first time I’ve done so in at least a year. As I do, I’m finding I’m also struck by how the books are “evolving” from that opener.

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“There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never.”

Following the murders of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina, old social media photographs of the white supremacist arrested for it naturally surfaced almost immediately. In one, he’s wearing jacket patches of the apartheid South Africa flag and the white minority government Rhodesia flag. In another, he’s posing on a car displaying the Confederate States of America emblem.

His embrace of the latter has revived arguments inside the U.S. about the post-Civil War tacit understanding under which the United States became one country again:

Screen capture of Vox.
Screen capture of Vox.

That Vox piece is the sort of thing that leads one to wonder if supposedly well-educated members of the media have ever read a serious history book?

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A Heartfelt “Thanks”

Everything can seem fine. Daily work and life proceeds. We may feel we’ve got it *mostly* under control….

“But then you come walking into a room, and my mind goes somewhere else.” ~ James (in Frontiers)

Indeed and then we’re jolted into reflecting. Amidst all of the hundreds of postings to date here, I have perhaps inadequately acknowledged what’s ultimately most important. Allow me to do so unambiguously.

Free Stock Photo: A heart drawn in the sand.
Free Stock Photo: A heart drawn in the sand.

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He Says, She Says

During our phone chat a few weeks ago (because we weren’t able to get together as hoped), my uncle told me that (based on what he’d read so far) he considered what I write nicely readable. That’s a good thing, though, he asserted. If it’s what I want, I should run with it.

But I thought how that could also be considered a “backhanded” compliment: that it is good enough to sell and attract readers, yeh, but it isn’t “deep.”

Recently I’d also noted a reader who’d written to me that she thought the books belonged in history classes. That is quite a compliment for fiction; but I wasn’t writing history, of course. (As flattering as that may be to hear, I don’t want to scare away potential readers here thinking they’re dry history. They’re not!) Yet “history” would seem pretty “deep” stuff, no?

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The Appropriate “Grade Level” For Your Novel Is…

The other day Kindle sent out a note suggesting we authors optionally “age rate” our books. I thought I’d share it. I’ve removed the superfluous and “personal” parts and screen captured the core of it:

Edited message from Kindle.
Edited message from Kindle.

Kindle sends out lots of stuff – some useful, some not. But this just seems a sloppy tech issue from their end. There’s a straightforward reason I haven’t chosen an under-18s level for my novels and Kindle knows it already.

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“Urgent cable for you….”

FROM: ROBERT
TO: YOU
SUBJECT: FINISHED

WINDS OF WAR DONE 1428 UK TIME REMEMBRANCE SITS OMINOUSLY ON SHELF STOP
WARMEST REGARDS

One gargantuan novel down. One more to go. [Photo by me.]
One gargantuan novel down. One more to go. [Photo by me.]

Surely I had to share that amazing news in the style of a 1941 telegram! ;-)

______
UPDATE: Don’t forget, tomorrow (Monday), I’ve got quite an interesting post planned. If you can, pop by! :-)

Meeting Maria

As I was working yesterday on a Distances scene – holiday is over; novels don’t get finished unless YOU finish them – that includes a new character, I was struck by this thought.

The books are built around core characters we know by now. There are others who are prominent regulars too of course: the various parents and certain friends.

However, much as in real life, we have people we know who make an impression and (sometimes sadly) leave us. Often someone has to move on, or we just grow apart. Sometimes they drift back into our lives; but sometimes they never do, or plain cannot:

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